*/**** Image B Sound C+ Extras A
starring Michael J. Fox, Kiefer Sutherland, Phoebe Cates, Dianne Wiest
screenplay by Jay McInerney, based on his novel
directed by James Bridges
by Walter Chaw Jay McInerney's nouveau second-person Bright Lights, Big City was my Catcher in the Rye (or, more precisely, his nameless protagonist was my Holden Caulfield), because I caught that bug in the same time of life that most people discover Salinger. I remember a fifteen-year-old me being disappointed when I saw James Bridges's Bright Lights, Big City on the big screen--not because Michael J. Fox wasn't poised for a dramatic breakthrough (he'd have one the following year in Casualties of War), but because Bridges is one of those old-timey directors without any discernible style who can be counted on for the same exhausted, completely lifeless movie no matter the era or the subject. No one else makes a nuclear meltdown (The China Syndrome) exactly as interesting as an aerobics class (Perfect) and Harvard Law (The Paper Chase). I mean, seriously, this is the guy who went out of his way to work with Debra Winger and John Travolta twice during the Eighties. Bridges's picture, surprise to no one, is a limp dick. The vibrancy--the exhilarated, doomed hedonism--of the McInerney novel gets subsumed under cotton-packed fathoms of complete incomprehension of what the source offered in spades: that note of melancholy in the lovelorn and the lost, that feeling of being swept up in something bigger than you. The Bridges picture is flyblown, devoid of pace and heat; it's such a mortician's slab that it's hard to even tell if the Fox performance is wasted on it, though I suspect it is. It's a bigger crime because someone else should have done this book.